By  on July 18, 2007

PARIS — Step aside, Gucci loafers, PPR executives are trying on Puma sneakers for size.

The French retail and luxury giant said Tuesday that it now owns a controlling stake of 62.1 percent of the German activewear giant. The deal, valuing Puma at 5.3 billion euros, or $7.3 billion at current exchange, is one of the biggest takeover plays of the year and has PPR straddling the highbrow world of luxury and the trend-oriented sports and lifestyle market.

"We are very pleased with the fi nal result of our offer to the Puma shareholders, who have sent a strong signal of support for the transaction," said Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive offi cer of PPR and chairman of the supervisory board of Puma. "We are at the starting point of a fruitful collaboration and will now focus on implementing our long-term strategic vision."

PPR, which bought 27.1 percent of Puma from a German private equity fi rm in April, offered 330 euros, or $455, a share. Puma investors stalled selling their shares as they considered the bid too low and hoped for a better deal. Nevertheless, PPR stood by its original offer and did not sweeten the deal, prompting investors to sell their shares in a public offer that closed June 20. The offer was extended from June 28 until July 11 to investors who had not tendered their shares.

"We are pleased that the Puma shareholders have, with their vote, supported the junction of Puma with the PPR group and set the basis for a successful cooperation," Jochen Zeitz, chairman and chief executive offi cer of Puma, said in a statement.

The deal seals Puma's position as the world's third-largest sporting goods manufacturer after industry leader Nike and German rival Adidas.

"With the support of PPR we will use the large potential of our brand and the emerging possibilities on a long-term basis, and will invest in brandbuilding, enabling us to further strengthen our position as the leading company in the sport-lifestyle market," Zeitz added.

Just this month, the fi rm added bodywear to its fashion offering and showed off its Rudolf Dassler by Puma heritage and limited edition lines on the Berlin runways.

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